The U.S. imposed visa sanctions on four countries that refuse to accept deported nationals, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday.
The four countries are Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. They are being sanctioned “due to lack of cooperation” on deportations, according to DHS.
The most severe sanction — a pause in the issuance of B visas for business and tourism — will be leveled against Eritrea. In Cambodia, high-level government officials and their immediate family members will be denied access to business and tourism travel.
In Guinea, the issuance of student and cultural exchange visas to certain government officials and family members will be suspended, along with B visas. In Sierra Leone, officials in the country’s foreign ministry and immigration offices will be denied business and tourist visas.
An executive order signed in January by President Donald Trump directed the Secretary of State to enter negotiations with “recalcitrant countries” that wouldn’t accept deported nationals from the U.S. If the countries failed to comply, the executive order said, DHS and State must impose sanctions.
“The United States itself routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked, as do the majority of countries in the world,” said acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke in a related announcement. “However, these countries have failed to do so, and that one-way street ends with these sanctions.
Sanctions have been used sparingly in the past, but have emerged as a weapon in the president’s immigration crackdown. DHS spokesperson David Lapan said in late August that 12 countries were flagged as uncooperative. That list, which predated the Trump administration, included China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Guinea, Cambodia, Eritrea, Burma, Morocco, Hong Kong and South Sudan. Lapan said at the time that four of those nations would be subject to visa sanctions, but did not confirm a news report that identified them.
Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke notified the State Department that the four countries refused to accept deported nationals, which triggered the sanctions, according to DHS.
DHS said the nations had not established reliable processes to issue travel documents to people with removal orders.
“Without an appropriate response from the impacted countries, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population,” DHS said in a written statement. The policies will remain in place until Duke notifies Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that cooperation “has improved to an acceptable level,” the department said.